Brazilians hit by widespread shortages of food and fuel triggered by blockades, strike
Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories
Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.
- National strike by truckers in Brazil triggers widespread shortages of food, fuel
- Federal government's decision to take over Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project seems to have angered as many as it pleased
- Belgian authorities say shooting spree that left two policewomen and a civilian dead was possible act of terrorism
- Missed The National last night? Watch it here
Brazil's blockade problem
A crippling national strike by Brazil's truck drivers is entering its ninth day, and another looming walkout by the country's oil workers threatens even more chaos.
Transport drivers protesting the high price of diesel fuel have been blockading highways since early last week, causing widespread shortages of fruits, vegetables, eggs and gasoline. Schools, hospitals and airports have been forced to shut down or cut back services as they run low on crucial supplies.
Two major sugar mills have closed their doors. The poultry industry, one of Brazil's major exporters, lost 64 million chicks due to feed shortages, with one billion more — and 20 million pigs — still in danger of starvation. Work at the huge Santos seaport, near Sao Paulo, has ground to a halt.
Finance Minister Eduardo Guardia said the temporary measures will cost Brazil's treasury almost 14 billion reais ($4.8 billion Cdn) once last week's concession on fuel taxes — a failed attempt to end the strike — is factored in. The shortfall will be made up via a combination of spending cuts and increased payroll taxes.
The disputes now threaten to derail the unpopular Temer's efforts to kickstart the struggling economy and move away from a system of price controls imposed by his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached and removed from office for cooking the government's books.
And the president's desperation for a deal with the truckers sets the stakes for the next labour confrontation, a threatened 72-hour national shutdown of refineries and gas stations by workers at the state-owned oil company Petrobras, scheduled to begin tomorrow night.
Last week, Temer announced that he will not be seeking another term in October's presidential elections. A recent poll put his approval rating at just four per cent.
Ottawa was in a tight corner with regards to the planned twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline, trying to referee a bitter fight between the governments of British Columbia and Alberta and still meet owner Kinder Morgan's May 31 deadline to guarantee that the project would go ahead.
But the solution unveiled this morning — a $4.5 billion deal to buy the old pipeline and have the feds take over the expansion project — seems to have angered as many as it pleased. And left some important questions unanswered.
Here's the social media spin:
Today <a href="https://twitter.com/jimcarr_wpg?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JimCarr_WPG</a> and I announced that we have reached an agreement that will get TMX built, guarantee the summer construction season and protect thousands of jobs. 1/2 <a href="https://t.co/RGASrKgWjH">pic.twitter.com/RGASrKgWjH</a>—@Bill_Morneau
We are able to pursue this project with confidence, because we know that we are upholding the trust Canadians have placed in us to both grow our economy and protect our environment. 2/2—@Bill_Morneau
This is a major step forward for all Canadians.<br>We have met the deadline.<br>This project has more certainty than ever before. <br>We won’t stop until the job is done! <br>I’ll have more to say later this morning. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/KeepCanadaWorking?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#KeepCanadaWorking</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ABleg?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ABleg</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ABpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ABpoli</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TMX?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TMX</a>—@RachelNotley
And some of the bitter blow-back:
Trudeau arbitrarily cancelled the Northern Gateway pipeline. His new regulations led to Energy East pipeline cancellation. Today, the Liberals are forced to buy Trans Mountain because the private sector has no confidence in the Liberal government. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cdnpoli</a>—@ErinOTooleMP
Trudeau just dropped $4.5 billion of your money on a 65 year old pipeline that leaks. The price tag doesn't include the cost of building the new pipeline. No. I'm not joking.<a href="https://t.co/RrlZN49auy">https://t.co/RrlZN49auy</a>—@nathancullen
Unbelievable. Morneau claims <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/kindermorgan?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#kindermorgan</a> approved after "most rigorous environmental review process in our history." It was the worst.—@ElizabethMay
BREAKING: Canadian government to BUY controversial <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/KinderMorgan?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#KinderMorgan</a> pipeline using $4.5 billion of taxpayers' money. Tell <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JustinTrudeau</a> to stop this pipeline bailout NOW >> <br> <a href="https://t.co/RPuaeFDwCY">https://t.co/RPuaeFDwCY</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Crudeau?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Crudeau</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cdnpoli</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopKM?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#StopKM</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopPipelines?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#StopPipelines</a> <a href="https://t.co/vpbVdMq1nc">pic.twitter.com/vpbVdMq1nc</a>—@GreenpeaceCA
And today's deal may not solve the problem.
It’s all nice and well that Canada bought the whole Trans Mountain project, but Federal Court of Appeal can still cancel the new pipeline approval shortly because of inadequate First Nations consultation.—@markusoff
But it did brighten the day of the Texas-headquartered pipeline giant.
Kinder Morgan CEO Steve Kean sounds upbeat on this conference call announcing the Feds are buying Trans Mountain and the new expansion pipeline. Kinder Morgan still holds on to its storage facilities, crude by rail terminal, export terminal, etc—@KyleBakx
- Enjoying this newsletter? Sign up and have it delivered by email. You may also like our early-morning newsletter, the Morning Brief — start the day with the news you need in one quick and concise read. Sign up here.
A petty thief and drug dealer, on a two-day furlough from a Belgian prison, attacked and killed two police officers and a civilian in the city of Liège this morning, in what authorities are calling a possible act of terrorism.
The incident began around 10:30 a.m. on the edge of a historic downtown park, where the 36-year-old suspect stabbed two policewomen in the back with a boxcutter. He then took their service pistols and shot them both dead.
The attacker then shot and killed a 22-year-old man in his car, before heading into a neighbouring high school and taking two women hostage.
Belgian media have identified the assailant as Benjamin Herman, an "unstable and violent" inmate from a prison in the town of Marche-en-Famenne, about an hour south of Liège.
A former cellmate told the broadcaster RTBF that Herman had been "radicalized" in jail. "He told me that he was really a Muslim," said the ex-convict, identified only as "Bruno."
A local newspaper reports that witnesses heard the attacker shouting "Allahu Akbar" as he killed the policewomen. The French magazine Paris Match says that authorities at the jail have recovered a prayer mat and a Qur'an from the man's cell.
Koen Geens, Belgium's minister of justice, confirmed that Herman — who was sentenced to seven years in jail in 2013 — had received 11 day passes and 13 two-day furloughs over the past couple of years, all of which passed without incident.
"It was therefore difficult to foresee that things would go badly the 14th time," Geens told reporters.
Significant resources have been poured into campaigns to combat radicalization in places like Molenbeek, a poor district of Brussels with a large Arab population.
But Liège has experienced a different sort of terror. In December 2011, a convicted gun fanatic attacked a Christmas market in the town centre with pistols and grenades, killing five people and wounding 125, before taking his own life.
He had been released from jail 14 months earlier.
Quote of the moment
"Departments can implement our recommendations and deal with the symptoms we've raised, and that is important. But the real question for the government to think about is why do we keep finding and reporting serious problems, and why do incomprehensible failures still happen?"
- Michael Ferguson, Canada's auditor general, tables his annual spring report on Ottawa's boondoggles, including the Phoenix pay system, a debacle he blames on "fundamental failures" of management and oversight.
What The National is reading
- Hawaii's Kilauea volcano belches another plume of ash (CBC)
- Developing cyclone threatens Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh (Al Jazeera)
- At least 4,645 Puerto Ricans died from Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, says new study (Washington Post)
- 'Incredibly fierce' UBC graduate among activists detained in Saudi Arabia (CBC)
- Ethiopian government frees 575 political prisoners (Africanews)
- Nobel prize for literature could be suspended for more than a year (Guardian)
- Pakistan 'gave' Osama bin Laden to the U.S., former spy chief claims (Asia Times)
- Weezer bows to internet campaign, covers world's worst song (Digg)
Today in history
May 30, 2000: Walkerton's Stan Koebel faces the media
Six people were already dead and thousands sickened by the time the small Ontario town's utility manager finally showed his face in public. His lawyer did all the talking. Silence was a bit of a Koebel trademark — having delayed telling the public about the high levels of E. coli in the municipal water supply, with fatal consequences. Many suggested that Ontario government cutbacks had played a role in the tragedy. But Koebel was the only one who went to jail, serving four months of a year-long sentence.
Sign up here and have The National Today newsletter delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.
Please send your ideas, news tips, rants, and compliments to email@example.com.